UCAS data reveals record numbers of students entering higher education – FE News

Figures released today (Thursday 22 September) show 275,390 students have been accepted onto a course, higher than the 272,500 (+ 1%) last year and up from 239,460 in 2019 (+ 15%) – the last time results were based on exams.

The new analysis, of the 28-day point after results days for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (15 September), puts the entry rate for 18-year-olds at 37.3%. This is slightly lower than 37.9% last year, when assessed teachers students’ grades, but notably higher than 33.8% in 2019.

The number of 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas in the UK (POLAR4 quintile 1) accepted into university has hit an all-time high – a total of 31,890, which is an uplift from 30,280 last year (+ 5%) and 26,000 in 2019 (+ 23%) – as widening participation continues to grow.

And student satisfaction is high, with a UCAS survey * revealing 93% of respondents were happy with their confirmed place.

Other key points include:

  • Record numbers of UK 18-year-olds have secured a place in Clearing – 33,280, up from 24,100 in 2021 and 33,000 in 2019.
  • Clearing data published by UCAS on results day showed 21,000 students did not have a place after getting their grades. New UCAS analysis today shows 58% have since gone on to secure a place, compared to 55% in 2021 and 62% in 2019.
  • Students can also use Clearing to change their mind and new UCAS analysis reveals 14,760 of UK 18-year-olds used this route to switch courses. Of those students, 11,800 (80%) secured a new place at an equivalent or higher tariff university.

Meanwhile, UCAS data shows 62,200 international students of all ages (12% of all accepted students) and 78,160 mature learners – students aged 21 and over – have been placed at university (a 10% decline on 2021 and an 11% decline from 2019) .

UCAS presents apprenticeship opportunities alongside undergraduate choices in Clearing, and new data shows 1,200 students used the UCAS service to apply for live apprenticeship vacancies on results day alone, a 6% uplift from 1,130 last year.

80% of T Level students accepted

This Clearing also saw the first T level cohort receive their results, with 410 of the 510 applicants (80%) accepted onto a course.

UCAS Chief Executive Clare Marchant said: “This year we see a record number of students, including high numbers of disadvantaged students, about to start their course at university or college based on exams results.

“We predicted Clearing would be dynamic this year and I am pleased to see record numbers of UK 18-year-old students secure a place in Clearing. This includes significant numbers of students making more ambitious choices by using the digital tools we make available to them. With high demand for university places, it also shows that students are now confidently using a more digital and personalized Clearing to explore other options available to them.

“For students who are still considering their options, UCAS is on hand to help them make an informed decision that best suits their aspirations. There remains plenty of choice with more than 22,000 courses available in Clearing, along with a range of apprenticeship opportunities. “

Sector Reaction:

Commenting on UCAS data about record numbers of students entering higher education, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“While there may be record numbers of students entering higher education, there are also huge numbers missing out. UCAS figures show that more than 107,000 UK applicants have not secured a university place at all this year and that this is an increase of 11,100 since 2021.

“Many of these applicants are young people who have been hit by the effects of the pandemic which has caused severe disruption to their education over the past two years, and they deserve and need as much support as possible. Instead, we see that the percentage of students securing a place through clearing this year has actually fallen to 58% compared to 62% in 2019 when exams were last taken. Too many young people appear to have been let down by a higher education system which should have done better for them.

“This comes in the context of an increase in the number of 18-year-olds in the population, which is projected to continue to grow very significantly over the next few years, and is likely to put ever-more pressure on university places, particularly for the most selective universities and courses.

“The higher education sector, the government and employers all need to think about how they create opportunities for all young people in the future, not only at universities, but through apprenticeship schemes which offer sufficient breadth and quality across a range of industries.

“This must be supported by more government investment in independent careers advice and information which and colleges can draw upon to help their students identify and secure the choices which best suit their schools needs. We must become a society which genuinely promotes and facilitates a range of pathways for young people allowing them to fulfill their aspirations and provide the array of skills the country requires for a successful and prosperous future. “

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“It is because of the hard work of students, parents, schools, colleges and universities that we have seen the largest number of students on record for an examination year – including record numbers of disadvantaged 18-year-olds – going on to university, while many others will take their next steps in further training or the world of work.

“This data shows students this year have been using Clearing to their advantage by exploring the options that are available to them and making more informed choices. While 21,000 students missed the terms of their offer on results day – fewer students than in 2019 – of those, 58% have gone on to secure a place at university which is in line with both 2019 and 2021. “

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